Your body’s immune system relies in part on a fluid that primarily keeps critical organs from drying out. Mucus is an essential fluid in the body, but most of us do not pay much attention to it until the production of it is increased. When this happens, it usually means that the body is reacting to an invader, whether it is germs, bacteria, viruses, or an allergic reaction to foreign substances.
We most associate mucus with the sinus cavities, it offers a protective layer that traps dust and similar particles from entering the body. But mucus is also produced in the lungs, mouth, throat, and gastrointestinal tract. The terms mucus and phlegm are interchangeable since they are the same thing, but the term phlegm is used to describe mucus that is expelled from the lungs.
Excess amounts of mucus are expelled from the body through sneezing, blowing your nose, or clearing your throat. It is the excessive amounts of mucus that can be quite annoying when fighting off colds, flu, infections, or allergic reactions.
You may not realize it, but the typical amount of mucus produced on a daily basis by the body is one to one and a half liters per day. That seems like a considerable amount, but most of us will not notice it because it is digested or expelled on a regular basis.
When the body becomes infected or senses an infection, the mucus production is increased considerably. This is a good reaction because it means that many of germs, bacteria, or viruses are being trapped in the mucus before they can enter the more critical areas of the body. Plus, the invaders are not just trapped, they are being destroyed by the enzymes in the mucus that kill bacteria or the antibodies that part of the mucus production system.
Mucus production can increase due to an allergic reaction. This is when the immune system senses a foreign invader to the body and treats it like a cold, flu, or bacterial infection. Mucus production is increased to trap the particles, so they are prevented from reaching the lungs or other vital organs. However, there is really no danger to the body itself from the pollen, mold, and other small particles that are not germs, bacteria, or viruses.
Unfortunately, the body does not know that, and you’ll find yourself sneezing and expelling larger amounts of mucus as a result. You can usually tell an allergic reaction from an infection or contracting a virus because the mucus does not change color or viscosity. Plus, you will not have other symptoms such as a fever which occurs when the viruses, germs, or bacteria get inside the body and threaten the organs.
Unlike allergic reactions, an infection which is left unchecked may harm to the body. Mucus is the first line of defense, trapping the gems, bacteria, and viruses as they enter the nose, mouth, and eyes. The immediate difference between an allergic reaction and an infection is that the mucus will appear darker, have a yellow-green tint, and less viscus. This is usually caused by the buildup of destroyed germs, bacteria, and viruses that have been trapped and died in the mucus itself.
The thicker mucus is also more difficult to clear out of the body. You may find yourself blowing your nose far more often and still not feel that you have fully discharged the mucus.
How to Get Rid of Mucus?
While having excessive amounts of mucus is not dangerous in and of itself, the clogged sinuses, fits of coughing, and pressure that is associated with it can be quite annoying. Getting rid of the mucus buildup can be more difficult when it thickens, but there are treatments you can use to help expel the mucus from your body.
Over the Counter Medications
In severe cases, you can use prescription medicines, but many over the counter medications will help reduce the amount of mucus that is produced. A side effect of medications that directly affect mucus production is that it dries the body out which may lead to other complications if you are not drinking plenty of fluids.
Antihistamines are the substances found in over the counter medications that reduces mucus production which can be quite helpful during an allergic reaction. They are quite effective, but should be avoided if you suffer from heart disease or high blood pressure.
Natural Nasal Spray
You do not have to go to the store to get a natural nasal spray that really works. Salt water is a highly effective means of reducing the symptoms associated with higher mucus production levels. Adding a little salt to water and putting it in a nasal spray offers two advantages.
1. Lubricates the lining of your nasal passages
2. Reduces swelling
The salt causes the linings of your sinus cavities to shrink while the water helps to make the mucus present thinner, so it becomes easier to expel. This combination really works when mixed in the right amount. Plus, you can purchase empty bottles of nasal spray or used old ones that have been thoroughly cleaned.
Neti Pot: One variation of the nasal spray is the Neti Pot. This is a small container that holds a saltwater solution. You stick the open end into one nostril, tilt your head to the side, and gently pour the solution inside. The saltwater will come out the other nostril and the result is that your nasal passages are irrigated.
The Neti Pot has been a popular product in Europe, but only recently has it reached the United States in any real numbers. It is best designed for mucus and swelled nasal passages that are near the top of the nose as the solution does not enter the sinus cavities. When used properly, it can be quite effective.
What Foods Get Rid of Mucus?
If you are suffering from an infection, virus, or have regular allergic attacks that increase the production of mucus, there are foods you can consume which will help to make the mucus easier to expel. A regular diet that includes the following foods can help you battle a cold, flu, infection, or allergic reaction by making it easier for the mucus to leave your body.
Vegetables: Although most people associate citrus fruits with reducing mucus issues, vegetables may work even better. Fresh vegetables, especially green vegetables that have been steamed or raw can boost the immune system which in turn makes it easier to expel the mucus from the body. You can find your own green vegetable that is your favorite, such as broccoli or spinach.
In addition, garlic and onions are also quite effective at helping the body to fight off colds and the flu. Onions have an anti-inflammatory product that lowers the swelling inside nasal passages and helps to break down the mucus itself so that you sneeze, cough, and blow your nose more productively.
Pineapple: One of the most effective foods in helping clear the nasal passages and lungs from mucus is pineapple. This is because a pineapple has bioflavonoid bromelain which boosts the function of the immune system while reducing inflammation. In addition to the thicker mucus, swollen nasal passages make it difficult to expel the mucus properly. A healthy amount of pineapple will help reduce inflammation and make it easier to get rid of the mucus.
Other fruits that can help belong the citrus family, particularly grapefruit which is excellent at breaking down and making excessive mucus easier to expel. Lemon or lime juice when mixed with warm water will also help hydrate the body to allow for mucus production that is thinner to make it easier to clear your throat, lungs, and sinus passages.
Apple Cider Vinegar: What makes this a good choice when taken a teaspoon at a time is the antibacterial properties that are present. This makes apple cider vinegar more effective against infections as it destroys the bacteria that is present. It is recommended that you use unpasteurized apple cider vinegar and add a teaspoon to products such as herbal teas for maximum effectiveness.
In addition, oily fish that contain plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids such as tuna, salmon, herring, and sardines boost your immune system and reduce inflammation as well. When used in combination with green vegetables, it can create a positive effect on the body.
It also pays to avoid foods that contain a high amount of sugar. Sugar promotes inflammation in the body as it suppresses the function of the immune system. So, save the cookies for after your body recovers from a cold or flu. Plus, diary products actually promote mucus production, so you’ll want to limit their intake as well.
Excessive mucus production should be seen for what it is, your body trying to fight off an infection or having an allergic reaction. To combat this, your goal should be to eat the right foods and take the recommended medications that help loosen and discharge the mucus from your system.